While my experience is not quite over, I have been working my hardest for four short months and a lot has happened between May and now.
I remember starting back in May, I felt a little lost. The test stand was close to being fully functional for the first time. I took up the challenge though. Spending some long days — not to mention the nights where lab was all I could think about — I got caught up and became familiar code, testing and positioners. This allowed me to fit into a role that was previously unfilled in the lab. This made the test stand my own research project; I know it, I operate it and I improve it. I began directing myself for the most part, this gave me a huge opportunity to do well — or fail if I had not motivation.
I had no intention of failing.
By June I began creating things of my own: nifty scripts to show the positioners in a different way and stuff like that. I worked on analysis too. I created plots to try to point out problems. I used statistics too, which felt a little weird since I had never before used statistics so instinctively to look at data before but I could tell, and others let me know too, that it was good and useful that I was doing this.
By July I began doing technical writeups of procedures and the set up. So that others could replicate it or so that others could be trained to do it. I began participating in group meetings with both our lab and some engineers and LBNL. For these meetings I would write reports and present my data on the now smoothly running test stand. I joined in on discussions about the the issues that were being observed with positioners and offered my analysis.
By August I really began to feel as a team member with the lab. My input was valued and others approached me often to know how the testing goes. I will let you know too, it feels great to be part of a team.
Overall it feels like I got to this position through a lot of hard work and dedication. Obviously having some prior experience in programming, troubleshooting, hardware and analysis helped me too but this gave me a lot more experience with those too. Some other things that I gained experience in was working as a team and giving presentations on my work — explaining it in a technical sense. This is all very valuable but it is only half of what I get to take away from this. The other half is that I worked on an exciting science project the DESI project which has a good chance of producing exciting results in the near future. Also all of the contacts I have made with my lab members, professional physicists and engineers are irreplaceable. If I ever need some help, advice or recommendations I have plenty of people I can trust to go to.
This experience has basically been the dream for me continuing my plans to go to graduate school to study physics.